Robin Williams Inside the Actor?s Studio
Robin Williams, James Lipton
Originally aired Bravo 2001
Shout! Factory 2008
100 minutes plus extras

The trumpets you hear announce Robin Williams Inside the Actor’s Studio is now and finally available on DVD. The expression on the cow in Twister is the same as James Lipton’s when Robin Williams grabs the stage. Lipton is no intellectual slouch but hurricane Williams blows out everything Inside the Actor’s Studio in the most requested episode of this TV show. The one weak point of this DVD is the bleeping; there can be no valid explanation for this aside from that is what is on the master tape.

Lipton and his stack of question cards end up playing quite willing straight man to Robin Williams for some 100 minutes. Perhaps the best moment, and there are many of those, is when Lipton asks the comic and actor where his energy and improv skills come from. Williams’ first answer is a long improv bit using a shawl he borrows from a member of the audience; his second is that there are things that cannot be explained and just are. If you watch and listen carefully you see the comic twice gave the question a serious answer.

Lipton’s follow-up question is if comedy is genetic or can it be taught. Once again, this is just a set-up for a funny as hell yet quite serious answer that involves the literally age old question How many Neanderthals does it take to light a fire?

This Inside the Actor’s Studio of course covers Williams’ film career and it is the only moment where Williams answers the questions seriously. Even then, however, he cannot resist a few riffs. Personally, I would have really liked to hear him talk about What Dreams May come.

Long time fans of Williams’ stand-up comedy will recognize a few bits and pieces in some of his many riffs but 99% of the stuff is created on the spot.

A lot of this Inside the Actor’s Studio is wild fun and games but there are a few moments here and there where Williams gets serious. The best such moment follows a riff on a Silicon Valley kid. Williams’ take in 2001 on computers is prescient and shows how smart the guy is.

Robin Williams Inside the Actor’s Studio is not a DVD you can or should watch in one sitting. Williams’ energy is really quite draining. Stopping to catch your breath and return to it with a refreshed mind adds a lot to the experience.

There are about 30 minutes of extra features; bits of the show that did not make it to air. These include Comedians Creating Characters, The English Court System, The Many Characters of Aladdin’s Genie, Mrs. Doubtfire and the Open Coffin –a great bit of physical comedy here, The Importance of Family, A Visit to Christopher Reeve, Mork & Mindy, Waiting for Godot, and The Birdcage and Loving What You Do.

The scary thing is Lipton suggest Williams’ presence at the Actor’s Studio lasted some 5 hours. This means there is lots more footage somewhere.


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